Top tips for hosting a traditional Afternoon Tea Party

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The thing I enjoy most about afternoon tea is how pretty and quaint it all is. It’s all about the visual when cake and tea turns into a par-tea! Here’s my top tips for making yours a success:

1) Tea pots and cups are a must…

…raised pinkie is optional! Whether they are a bone china matching set or a random mix you picked up from a boot fair, to host a truly English Tea Party a tea pot, cups and saucers must be out in full force. Don’t forget a milk jug!

2) Cake stands make the table

What better way to display your cakes?  If you have a three tier you can layer up with sandwiches, scones and cakes all in one place. Mini cakes are usually best here, and don’t forget to add some colour – fondant fancies and cupcakes are good for this!

3) Scones, jam and cream need to feature

If you’re hosting for a large group get a mix of fruit and plain for all those raisin haters, and lovers, out there…

4) Keep it cute

Cut your sandwiches into mini triangles or squares and opt for pretty, patterned serviettes. It’s all in the presentation.

5) Keep the food simple

Unless you know your guests’ food likes and dislikes well, I find it best to stick to the classics in terms of the cakes and sandwich fillings. E.g. cheese, ham, salmon and cucumber sandwiches. I made cream cheese bagels, with salmon, cucumber and chives, cut into quarters at this year’s event…they were gobbled up in minutes! For cakes, fondant fancies, victoria sponge, carrot and chocolate cake are usual top picks for my guests. Don’t forget to get some soft drinks in for when your guests have had enough tea. I like elder flower cordial and sparkling water.

I’d love to see any pictures from your Afternoon Tea Parties! Email me at laura@taketeawithme.co.uk or tag on Instagram @take.tea.with.me!

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The Dorchester Spatisserie

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There’s no doubt about it, The Dorchester Hotel is seriously posh. Luckily I had a generous gift voucher so was able to treat my Mum and I to their limited offer ‘beau-tea-ful’ spa day (including massage/ facial, use of facilities and afternoon tea in The Dorchester Spatisserie for £135 per person).
My absolute highlight? I love dressing up for afternoon tea, but discovered dressing down is even better, and by down I mean taking tea in a huge white robe and slippers spa-style. The sophisticated Spatisserie was very quiet, with lots of glass furniture, white orchids and soft lighting to ensure you didn’t lose the zen feeling of their relaxation room (I was straight back in there for a nap after tea!)

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I visited on the first day of their Alice in Wonderland Afternoon Tea and  definitely appreciated the theme with top hat, card and melting clock treats. We were also given seconds  to take away. The sandwiches were my favourite part with a real variety of breads, including a tasty nutty granary. With bread this good, The Dorchester is able to keep their sandwich filings deliciously simple with the likes of cream cheese and cucumber, egg, ham and cheese.

If you’re one for splashing out on spa treatments and sweet treats, this could be an afternoon tea for you!

 

The Dorchester Spatisserie Gown

 

Brunch at Boyce Da Roca

Boyce Da Roca

first visited Boyce Da Roca on a Saturday afternoon and then returned the next three consecutive weekends. I’d just got home from a holiday in Australia, obsessed with smash and Aussie style banana bread, and this little gem satisfied every craving.

Boyce Da Rocca Smash

A major draw of this Boyce Da Roca is its location. The Triangle in Crystal Palace is packed full of eateries, shops (including the 3 floor Crystal Palace Antiques store) and has a great community feel with many independent businesses. I also love the views from the high street, with glimpses of the Shard and St Pauls reminding you you’re not too far from the city.

The café itself is quirky and casual. Reservations aren’t an option and it’s not a place to visit if you’re in a hurry – a buzzing café of calm chaos where every table is full. Half shop (Bambinos), half café (Boyce Da Roca), you sip coffee while admiring retro purchases such as a Knight’s helmet, or sit outside and watch passers-by on the street.

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The menu offers all things yummy: sourdough bread, smash, bacon, eggs, spinach, sausages, delicious coffee and Tea Pigs in many flavours (one of my favourite ‘everyday brews’). If, like me, you’re a fan of a sweet fix after brunch Boyce Da Roca has a selection of delicious cakes every day –the banana bread is spot on, served toasted with butter on the side. The baker behind the cakes is ex Ottolenghi, so if you’ve tried any of the cakes there you will understand just how good Boyce Da Roca’s treats are.

Pour your milk from their china cow jugs, sit back and enjoy before walking off any sins with a stroll around the park. 

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Back street in Crystal Palace – spot the teapot!

How to make a Victoria Sponge Cake

Here’s a simple step by step recipe to make a light, fluffy Victoria Sponge Cake –the ultimate Tea Party pleaser. This delicious British classic is great for hosting, or giving as a gift to even the fussiest of eaters.
This recipe requires few ingredients and can be made very quickly – perfect for when you’re short of time!  Everyone always wants seconds of this moreish cake so don’t expect it to last  long. A super easy bake to make time and time again!

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You will need:
• A large mixing bowl
• Another deep, small bowl or mug (to beat the eggs)
• A wooden spoon
• A knife, fork, teaspoon and tablespoon
• 2 x 20cm sandwich tins and baking paper to line
• A cooling rack (or plate if not available)
• A cake tin for storage
• A sieve

Ingredients:
For the cake:
• 200g caster sugar
• 200g unsalted butter, softened
• 4 eggs, beaten
• 200g self-raising flour, sifted
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 2 tbsp milk

For the filling:
• 100g unsalted butter, softened
• 140g icing sugar, sifted
• A drop of vanilla extract
• 170g (half a jar) of decent strawberry jam (Tiptree Little Scarlet works really well)

Decoration:
• Icing sugar, to sift on top
• Strawberries – when in season, but works just as well without

Method:
1) Pre-heat oven to 170C Fan/ 190C/ Gas Mark 5
2) Lightly grease two 20cm sandwich tins with butter and line the base of each tin with non-stick baking paper
3) Using a wooden spoon, beat the sugar and butter for the cake together in a bowl until fluffy and pale yellow in colour
4) Using a fork, beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Gradually pour the eggs into the butter and sugar, along with the sifted flour, baking powder and milk. Beat until well combined and smooth, but don’t overdo it.
5) Divide the mixture between the prepared sandwich tins. Use as much of the mixture as you can but don’t fill the tins right to the very top. Smooth out with the back of a spoon or spatula. Bake for around 20 minutes, or until golden brown with the middle springing back when touched. You can also check the cake is ready by poking a metal skewer in the middle and a few other areas – if it comes out clean then the cake is done.
6) Once out the oven, go round the edge of each cake with a sharp knife to avoid it sticking to the tin. Careful not to cut into the sponge!
7) Leave to cool in the tin for ten minutes and then tip out onto a cooling rack/ plate. Top tip: if you have a tin where the base pops out it will make your baking life much easier!
8) To make the filling, beat the butter until soft. Gradually beat in the sifted icing sugar and drop of vanilla extract until you’re left with a smooth, creamy butter icing. Top tip: some use a whisk for this, but I find it easier to do by hand with a wooden spoon.
9) Once the cake is completely cool, use a knife to spread the butter icing on the bottom of one of the sponges and then spread the jam on top of the butter icing. Spread the filling fairly close to the edge so it can be seen, but not so close that it will ooze out when you add the top layer. Stack the other sponge on top of the jam.
10) Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar. Add chopped strawberries to decorate.
11) Enjoy with a cup of tea! If there’s any left, store in an air-tight container in a cool, dry place and eat within 2 days.

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Vintage Tea in Totnes

Vintage Tea Totnes

On a wet week day in Devon, when my rain mac was leaving me feeling a little less than glamorous, I decided to ramp up the sophistication and go for a cream tea at Vintage Tea in Totnes. Those of you familiar with the town will know of its quirky cuteness – a well loved place that’s worth a visit for the high street alone.

Vintage Tea still has that valued local business feel that is so important to the area, using only local providers, but also offers something a little different. It was a soothing escape from the dreary Thursday afternoon outside; almost transporting us to another era with fine bone china, luxury linen table cloths and classic jazz music in its light and airy tea room. Bliss.

It’s not the cheapest of places for the area and is definitely more of an elegant treat, but what a treat it was. Too charming for words and their house blend (a mix of Earl Grey and Ceylon) is well worth a cup.

The Lavender House Café

Tea at Lavender House Cafe

If you’re in the Bromley area looking for a good cream tea, it’s well worth a trip to the Lavender House Cafe After my first visit last Saturday I’ve already decided this is going to be added to my little list of ‘regulars’ for both brunch and afternoon tea.

We visited on Halloween and, as a place that goes out of its way to give that little bit extra with various events such as Pilates, Mummy Mondays and Pottery and Crafts, it’s not surprising the Lavender House Cafe was neatly decorated with bats and pumpkin fairy lights for a Halloween themed day. The staff had also made the effort to dress up and offered face painting for both adults and children from 9am-4pm.

On entering through the main door you face quaint tables and chairs, a cushioned window seat, bunting, and a vintage cabinet filled with tempting treats. You make your orders at the counter, which freely displays all the cakes in glass cases. I don’t know about you, but I definitely like to eye up the cake selection before choosing and am a sucker for the aesthetics. As such, I opted for the hummingbird cake which was a fantastic slice of delicious moistness.

Hummingbird Cake at The Lavender House Cafe

One of the big perks of the Lavender House is it also has a garden, so as it was a warm, sunny day we opted to make the most of it on the patio. Despite having a climbing frame and many little skeletons, witches and princesses running around excited for the holiday the place somehow managed to become a perfect haven for both adults and children. Both my friend and I are single and childless and as such usually notice when we’re relaxing right next to a playground, but everything blended perfectly well here. The house also has a kid’s lunch menu, including a brightly coloured card board lunch box that the (rather adorable) ‘little monsters’ 😉 could unpack at their leisure.Eggs Royale Lavender House Cafe

In addition to cake the Lavender House Café also offers a brunch and lunch menu, including a daily specials board to keep things varied with changing soups and other popular dishes. Despite being mainly bread based with classics such as eggs royale (my choice), benedict and your more hangover friendly sausage sandwiches, the menu had a lot of choice and also included the popular American style pancakes. Gluten free bread was readily available, as were ‘skinny’ versions of hot chocolate and coffee which still proved delicious and beckoned second servings.

Skinny but scrummy Hot Chocolate!
Skinny but scrummy Hot Chocolate!

For the cream tea itself The Lavender House café offers a variety for taste and budget (please check website for latest prices):

  • A very reasonably priced simple cream tea
  • A luxury cream tea with strawberry press and strawberries
  • OR…you can go all out and throw in sandwiches, macaroons and a slice of cake on a three tier stand for £10.00.

It’s no surprise the place is very popular so visiting, and booking a table to avoid disappointment, is highly recommended!

Afternoon Tea and a Film at the Charlotte Street Hotel

Charlotte-Stree-Hotel-Afternoon-TeaI have visited the Charlotte Street Hotel four times in the last 2 years. Why? It’s easy, affordable and that perfect middle ground between fancy and informal. I’ve visited for a 1940s themed birthday party before heading to the Blitz Party, with my mum, a friend and even on a first date. It was the perfect setting for all occasions.

The hotel is part of the Firmdale hotel group and I’ve heard good things about all of them, but something always draws me back here. Maybe it’s the brightly coloured Oscar bar and restaurant, the social design of the tables with round and corner seats, the friendly staff, delicious cake and cream teas or the fact they serve afternoon tea until 6pm. Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll be going again!
The tea itself offers all you would expect from a top restaurant, a varied list of tea leaves, delicate china, neat sandwiches with a regularly updated menu, fruit and plain scones and a mix of classic and modern cakes all served on pretty three tier cake stands. Staff are more than happy to top you up with whatever you need and my favourite finishing touch is the little mini ice-cream cone they offer when you pay your bill. Refreshing passion fruit sorbet anyone?

Guests can opt for just the afternoon tea at £23.50 per person, or tea and the ‘film club’ (also available as a set menu dinner and a film) for £35.00 per person (please check hotel page for latest prices.) The latter is quite special. After enjoying your meal in the restaurant you grab a bag of popcorn and a drink (included), make your way through to the hotel’s private cinema room and take your pick from a comfy arm chair at the side or large seat in the rows in the centre. In terms of showings they offer a real variety, including many current releases and themed showings around Halloween and Christmas which book up quickly. With the price of just a film thesedays it’s no wonder many people opt to pay that little bit extra and cinema in style with the Firmdale group.

Check out what’s currently showing at the Film Club!